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Pat on the Back or Kick up the Rear – Good managers do both

November 20, 2012

There’s little doubt that praise is a powerful motivating force – we all feel uplifted when our efforts are recognised – and management has moved on from 19th century command and control to an era of recognise and reward.

Good Management

Not always the best way to praise someone.

Equally important, though rarely used effectively, is the reprimand.  Just as we need to catch people doing things right we also need to help people to identify where they are going wrong and to take steps to improve.  When managers fail to have the difficult conversations with under-performing team members it can have a knock-on effect on the wider team.  Good team members feel they needn’t do their best because there are no consequences to poor performance.

It’s thought that the reason so many managers opt out of reprimanding their team members is their fear of unpopularity.  It’s a basic human need to be liked and we can fear that reprimanding a colleague will make us unpopular.  In fact when we fail to admonish we begin to loose influence and our power as a leader diminishes, making the job of management harder.

Failure to reprimand is the same as giving permission to under perform   As consumers we wouldn’t tolerate lack of stock or rude service in a shop.  So we shouldn’t ignore bad practices in our teams in the hope that by some miracle things will change.  Most people want to do a good job, often when they don’t it’s simply because no one is showing them how they can do better, expectations aren’t understood and review conversations are infrequent.  If goals aren’t clear it’s unrealistic to expect team members to perform.

How to Correct Effectively

  • Reprimand in private, out of earshot and when you are both calm and composed.
  • Be concise.  1 to 3 minutes is enough – if you need more time either the issue has been allowed to escalate or the reviews aren’t sufficiently frequent.
  • Be clear, specific and honest about the behaviour and the consequences.
  • Ask questions for clarity.
  • Express your disappointment in the team member, alongside your belief that they can succeed.
  • Be sure to set clear expectations going forward.

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